July 7th, 2009
03:15 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama: U.S. not giving Israel green light to attack Iran

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/07/obama.israel.iran/art.obama.putin.afp.gi.jpg caption=" President Obama meets Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin near Moscow."]MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) - The United States is "absolutely not" giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama told CNN Tuesday.

"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East," Obama said, referring to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday appeared to leave the door open for Israel to attack Iran if it saw fit.

"Israel can determine for itself - it's a sovereign nation - what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," Biden said on ABC's "This Week."

Obama said Tuesday that Biden had simply been stating a fact, not sending a signal.

"I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels," he said.

The top U.S. military leader, Adm. Mike Mullen, said later on Tuesday that he understands Israel's position.

"The Israelis see Iran achieving a nuclear capability as an existential threat, and that fact is tied to the rhetoric of the leadership of Iran which ... has said that they would seek to eliminate Israel," said Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

His counterparts in the Gulf also understand the Israeli stance, whether or not they agree, Mullen said.

"That gets back to the criticality ... of solving this before Iran gets a nuclear capability, or that anyone... would take action to strike them. And I think that window is a very narrow window," he said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

He said he hoped diplomacy would resolve the issue.

"I am hopeful that that dialogue is productive. I worry about it a great deal if its not," Mullen said.

The State Department took a similar line on Monday.

"Our goal here is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. When I say 'our' it is just not the United States - it is the international community," spokesman Ian Kelly said. "Israel is a sovereign country. We are not going to dictate its actions. We also are committed to Israel's security and we share Israel's deep concerns about Iran's nuclear program."

Asked if this could be interpreted as the United States flashing a green light for Israel to attack Iran's nuclear sites, Kelly said, "I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action."

The Israeli government considers Iran's nuclear program to be the dominant threat facing the country.

–CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry in Moscow and CNN's Emily Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.

Filed under: Iran • President Obama
soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Who gave Bush the Green Light to Attack Iraq?
    Congress in a bipartisan vote.

    Who gave Hitler the Green Light to Attack the World?
    Neville Chamberlain by his policy of appeasement.

    Who gave Saddam the Green Light to Attack Kuwait?
    The western world including the US by their inaction and silence as he massed troops on the boarder.

    July 7, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  2. Johnny the Boy

    Obama, the Israeli's really don't care about your opinion nor will they seek your approval. While Obama prepares for his teleprompter "we are deeply concerned" photo ops the Israelis will do what they do best, plan and execute the appropriate response.

    The Israelis will not apologize.

    July 7, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  3. mike

    For everyone of you nutjobs saying that Israel doesnt need Obama's permission what world are you guys living in? Israel is such a world outcast due to their oppressive occupational stances that America is the only ally they have left and the only reason why Israel is in existence is because of the billions that America gives them each year. They know that despite the ridiculous influence they have on American policy they cant go start a war and expect America to fight it for them which is why Netenyahu, Ehud, Livni, Olmer, and every other Israeli politician begs America to give them the green light

    July 7, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  4. Emi

    Obama is not ordering anybody to obey him! As our President he is voicing our opinion. At the end Israel will do what they think is better for themselves.

    July 7, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  5. mike

    Israel attack Iraq in 1982 for their nuclear reactor without a green ligtht from anyone what makes people think they will wait for one against Iran. A Majority of the wars Israel has been involved in they were either attacked or Israel struck first to prevent an impending attack. That is how they defend their tiny country get used to it.

    Israel isn't helping in Iraq and Afganistan because it would cause more problems in the Middle East then their troops would be helping in those countries. That is why they do not contribute troops.

    Limbaugh is a liberal: what country is Israel selling american weapons too that is our agaionst us? Every country over there that is against us is also against them.

    July 7, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  6. Tom L

    @Limbaugh is a liberal
    You are so misinformed it is scary.
    We have given Israel hundreds of billions of dollars?? Huh? Israel gets about 3 billion a year.
    Israel has cost thousands of military lives? Where and when??
    They sell weapon technology to our adversaries. That might be the single most inane comment I have read here, and that is saying alot. Ummm, our adversaries are Israel's adversaries, too, genius.

    Seems to me there might just be a hint of anti-semitism...

    July 7, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  7. Jim in Florida

    Hmmmm, seems ardent Obamaists are also anti-Israel. Anti-Semitic is more like it – just like Rev. Wright and I suspect if the truth be known (which it never will be) Obama isn't a fan of Jews.

    Wonder why so many Jews in this country are easily duped into voting for a charlatan like Obama.

    July 7, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  8. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    As someone who got to see how our allies work with us on a close encounter basis I can tell you that there are only a few allies I would trust to be there anytime we are in trouble. Isreal is one of them with Great Britain, including Australia and Canada. The rest will be there for a price or if it is good for them. Some of the former Eastern European Countries may be there as they do not trust the Russian Government which we should not either with their actions on Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Georgia, and other former Soviet Nations. China is not our friend either and anyone who thinks they are a friend like Great Britain or Isreal is still wearing rose colored glasses from the 60's and ingesting/injecting illegal substances.

    July 7, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  9. manhandler

    Biden blows it again! And just when it looked as if an opposition was getting going in Iran. Now the conservatives in Iran are gonna use his goofy statement to rally the populace against the greater possibility of attack. So much for that opposition.

    Gotta wonder, other than talk, who has Iran ever attacked? Anyone? Iraq attacked Iran and Iran defended itself at great human cost partilaly due to the poison gas that the U.S. supplied to Sadaam.

    So what are these goofballs basing all this" IRAN THE AGRESSOR" stuff on other than bluster.

    And they said Palin was unqualified to be VP? Better think again.

    July 7, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  10. Tatianna

    Obama sent a message to Netanyahu demanding that Israel not surprise the US with a military operation against Iran. No doubt if the Israelis informed Obama in advance, news of the attack would leak and Netanyahu must have figured out by now that Obama is more concerned with pursuing his grand negotiations with with Iran than with the security of Israel. US intell will have a heads up an hour before the jets take off. On the bright side, it will take Obama hours to get his act together to try and figure out what to do next. Just as he held off being POTUS during the Captains hostage we witnessed for days, 5 days it went on

    July 7, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  11. kishen c.rao

    very defensive....

    July 7, 2009 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  12. David in West Virginia

    If I were Iran, I would be very worried about Israel. Israel will defend its soverign borders and will attack Iran if she feels threatened and rightfully so. Iranian leaders had better reject the nuclear option and work towards peace with her neighbors and the world or risk being bombed.

    July 7, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  13. S Callahan

    Just keep praying for peace....remember in the past God said he only needed to hear for one to plead and he would have saved the nation...
    imagine his hand on the area if millions prayed for peace....

    July 7, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  14. Seattle

    Did any of you Obama haters read this story?

    First of all, never in the article did Obama use the term green light, it was a term the interviewer made up and asked if Obama was giving Israel a "green light" to pre-emptively attack Iran.

    What was he supposed to say... "sure"? Furthermore, he then prefaced it by saying...
    "I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are. "

    So all you blowhards that read the headline and spit up a comment that says "why does Obama think Israel needs our permission?" .... that is not even close to what Obama is saying.

    What he is saying, however, is that he doesn't condone an offensive attack on Iran without trying diplomatic methods. And it absolutely baffles and saddens me that plenty of people on this tread actually disagree with that.

    It is amazing what years of war-hungry leadership has done to the mindset of this country. I hold Obama in the highest regard but even I would be amazed if he could reverse the violent logic.

    July 7, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  15. AcidEatingLiberal

    Iran would mop the floor with isreal. Our military is already stretched too thin as it is. Go ahead isreal. See what happens to you after you strike first.

    July 7, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  16. ender

    Interseting that sop many Republican trolls are turning up all of the sudden in this ticker. Funny you folks feel the need to try influencing CNN.

    On to the point tho. Joe spoke the truth as he so offten does. BUT, you folks need to understand that Israel does indeed need our blessing if they wished to inniciate a war by attacking Iran. Israel is strong thanks to our training their armies and arming them. They might indeed take Iran fairly easily if they did decide to attack first. BUT,they would be left weakened and their other enimies in the mid east would most certainly take advantage of that. As such, they would absolutly NEED our blessing and support. And if they did indeed attack unprovoked, they would likely lose much of our support. They know this. We know this.

    And just one more thing. WAR is mankinds ugliest practice. Men who run to war are fools. Men who embrace war quickly are children. Most of you fools who call so quickly for war likely never fought and likely wouldn't have to if a draft were in place.

    We get it, your all "tough guys". Your collective manliness is amazing to behold and feared by all.



    July 7, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  17. indy

    this president makes me sick to my stomach what a joke

    July 8, 2009 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
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